Sitting in my uncomfortable desk chair at my living room table, I warm up some leftover curry and blast my speakers at their highest volume while cycling through all of the albums that I have jotted down as my top picks for 2018. Since music is such a big part of my life, I take these end of year lists seriously. We live in an algorithmic culture that takes over our streaming platforms as we try to discover new music, so these end of year lists are excellent opportunities to connect with your music loving friends, social media friends, or favorite musicians to see what they chose as their top picks. For example, two of my favorite lists this year have been Moxie’s tracklist and Avalon Emerson’s Buy Music Club — a new website that shares the annual Bandcamp highlights of prolific DJs and producers and nudges people in the direction of actually buying them. In an interview with Resident Advisor, she says, “Since Bandcamp is currently one of the most equitable music vendors online, discovering and buying music there is one of the best ways to support independent artists and record labels. It would be nice to funnel year-end list mania through a channel that actually pays people.”
After taking notes on all of the top artists in my 2018 list, I noticed the same theme emerging throughout the vast range of genres. Every artist stepped up to create something that represented themselves honestly and even took chances to create music that was outside of their usual boundaries.
Even though I am still trying to understand a lot of the different pockets electronic music has to offer, what I appreciated the most was how successful the fully-formed home listening experiences have become. Artists are pushing boundaries, defying convention, and creating honest techno that is just as melodic and complex as any other genre. These masters of craft are creating well-defined experiences, independent of the individual track’s greatness.
Rock and indie music has always been at the core of my soul. I am a sucker for poetic lyrics and a guitar riff that will have me swooning for days. This year, several artists proved to me that rock is still very much alive and it is offered in so many different forms; indie rock, indie pop and pop-punk are amalgamated in the various artists and bands that I’ve had on replay this year.
MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2018
5. Junglepussy – JP3
NYC rapper Junglepussy has one of the most unique voices and most empowering lyrics in today’s hip hop scene. Considered one of her most genuine albums yet, it feels as if her most authentic self is showcased in JP3. Her raw, unfiltered voice and rib-poking punchlines intertwine vulnerability and strength in every track. She wants to remind herself and her listeners to love themselves, and that it’s okay to have fun while doing it! JP3 is funky, melodic, full of carefree vibes, slow grooves, and the self-affirming lyricism her fans know and love.
4. Caroline Rose – LONER
Through sarcastic lyrics, different genre influences, and some mordant wit to confront serious subjects, LONER is an album full of songs about misogyny, self-doubt, disillusionment, and death. It spans from squawky rockabilly (“Money”), sleepy trip-hop (“To Die Today”), and riot grrrl feminist surf-punk (“Bikini”). Caroline Rose is one of the first artists I’ve felt really connected to because of her goofy personality, her love for the color red, and the need to talk about serious subjects in a way that people would understand. She takes chances on LONER by showcasing the bravery to step outside of the box that her earlier music put her inside. It is the kind of album where you are never bored because not a single track is a dud and each listen unveils something new that you didn’t notice before. Jumping from genre to genre in the space of 35 minutes, the album suddenly ends and dares you to press ‘play’ to experience the entire dizzying ride all over again.
3. Perel – Hermetica
Enlightening her listeners through a bold sense of sonic exploration, Hermetica traverses a striking blend of house, new wave, and krautrock. The Hermetica were ancient Egyptian-Greek texts from the 2nd century that discuss the divine, the cosmos, the mind, and nature; some touch upon alchemy, astrology, and related concepts. It is almost as if Perel uses the essence of the album’s influences, post-Berlin wall club culture and punchy early 80s synth, to shape the record around these teachings of the Hermetica. The tracks‘ unique names and light yet complex structures create a textbook of sounds that unlocks a gateway to ideas only the listener can personally understand. Perfect for a road trip soundtrack or long hours of work at home, Perel layers chugging bass with playful synth lines, amped-up reverb, unnervingly deliberate sub-bass and squiggling radio tuners.
2. Compro – Skee Mask
Gazing at the mesmerizing album artwork, Compro was already making a strong impression the first time I heard it. I pressed play and got lost in the blizzard of textures that Bryan Müller creates through his gorgeous melodies and delicate drums. Its balanced full-length sound creates an atmospheric lean that is Müller’s most influential work yet. His typical breakbeats still show their importance throughout the album, but he combines them with a new emphasis on melody that shines alongside the ambient parts. His mature combination of ambient music, IDM and jungle produce a glistening hybrid of textures that make it one of the best albums of the year.
1. Snail Mail – Lush
Indie rock music helps listeners validate their feelings, you feel connected with the person because it’s almost like they understand what you’re going through. I definitely feel this way when I listen to Snail Mail because of her eloquent yet simple songwriting, but there are these other emotions that surface when I listen to Lush over and over again; other feelings that don’t quite make sense and have me creating my own story rather than relating it to things that have already happened. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my life at the moment, or maybe it’s because she unlocks a new door to indie rock that defies understanding. I think this is why Lush is my number one album of the year. She opened that new door to indie rock I never knew existed and taught me a new way to listen for the complexity in something simple.
I close my eyes and lie with my head back on the couch as I let the sweet intro of “Heatwave” carry me to a place in my mind that makes sense. I surrender to the butterflies erupting in my belly as the floaty guitar riff and lyrics transform the confused thoughts into emotions I can understand. Lindsey Jordan’s songwriting grazes your cheek like a soft wind by the sea, and whispers secrets of heartbreak in colors you couldn’t imagine. Blissful chord progressions, crushing yet straightforward phrases, sprawling guitar anthems, and a clear, soft voice that floats over fuzzy riffs perfectly sums up the beauty of Lush.
OTHER 2018 HIGHLIGHTS
– Clean by Soccer Mommy
– Be the Cowboy by Mitski
– Cocoon Crush by Objekt
– Sonder Somatic by Bruce
– Wide Awake! by Parquet Courts
– First Flower by Molly Burch
– I Don’t Run by Hinds
– Devotion by Tirzah
– Portrait with Firewood by Djrum
– 7 by Beach House
– Take Me With You by Anthony Naples
– 200% Galcher by Galcher Lustwerk
On the first page, you will find my Top 5 tracks from 2018, on the next page you can check out my Spotify playlist for all of my top albums and EPs of the year – here you can find all of this year’s annual charts and others from the past years.